Date of Award

Summer 8-18-2023

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




James Artesani

Second Committee Member

Susan Bennett-Armistead

Third Committee Member

Janet Fairman

Additional Committee Members

Meredith Swallow

Sid Mitchell


Henderson & Berla (1994) state “the evidence is now beyond dispute. When schools work together with families to support learning, children tend to succeed not just in school, but throughout life” (p.1). The objective of this study was to explore how the COVID19 pandemic changed the way elementary educators needed to connect and develop relationships with the families of their students. This study addressed the broad research question of how elementary teachers and families perceived their interactions through remote modalities during the COVID-19 pandemic using focus groups from rural central Maine. They also discussed what technology and digital modalities were used to communicate with each other when schools were required to move traditional teacher-family activities such as conferences, school visits and meetings to a virtual platform. Historically family engagement has been researched as to its importance and effect on student achievement (Hattie, 2008; Epstein, 2011; Ferlazzo, 2011) and the pandemic heightened the need for strong parent engagement. While using technology to communicate was not a new phenomenon in education (Tobokla, 2006; Fleming, 2012) using a variety of means and ways to communicate helped bridge communication barriers. Parents developed confidence interacting with teachers as a result of the use of technology, specifically email, messaging and video-conferencing.

(Hayhurst, 2021; Logan et. al., 2021) This study investigates a new phenomenon in education as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is significant as a study in an area that is just being developed and researched. The findings and suggestions can be utilized immediately to support communication through digital modalities. Using focus groups rather than surveys makes the study uniquely situated to hear the thoughts and perceptions from educators and parents, in a new area of educational research.